Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit (Paper -
Chapter V - Accountability and control: Legislative,
Executive and Judicial control over administration
LEGISLATIVE, EXECUTIVE AND JUDICIAL CONTROL OVER ADMINISTRATION
The need for effective control over administration is, thus,
obvious. Public opinion, professional standards and ethics, and the nature of
the society-all influence administration in varying ways and capacities and
exercise control over it. A study of this problem may, however, be made here
under the following major heads:
- Legislative Control.
- Executive Control.
- Judicial Control.
1. Legislative Control
In India, the tools of legislative control are:
Questions, Resolutions, Zero Hour Discussion, Adjournment Motions, Votes of
Censure, Budgets and Parliamentary Committees, Public Accounts Committee,
Estimates Committee, Committees on Public Undertakings, Committee on Subordinate
Legislation and the Committee on Assurances. Thus, the opportunity for
exercising control over administration assumes several forms, which may briefly
be discussed below:
(1) President’s Speech: Every new session of
Parliament opens with a speech from the President. The President’s speech
broadly spells out the major policies and activities with which the executive
would be preoccupied in the period immediately ahead. Normally, four days are
set aside for general discussion on it. The members of Parliament have, during
this period, an opportunity to criticize the entire realm of administration for
its alleged acts of omission as well as commission. It is, however, well to bear
in mind that the speeches are made on this occasion as well as on others with a
view to swaying the public opinion outside the Parliament, not to influencing
the honourable members, who rigidly follow, or are obliged to follow, party
lines in utterances and voting.
(2) Budget Discussion: Since the introduction of the
‘Budget on Account’, Parliament now has greater opportunity of discussion on the
budget proposals. The members of Parliament (by this we mean members of the Lok
Sabha) have the following opportunities of criticizing the administration
- After the presentation of the budget, general discussion takes
place. At this occasion the discussion relates to the budget as a whole
or any question of principle involved therein.
- Voting on grants provides the second opportunity. Discussion at this
stage is confined to each head of the Demand, and if cut motions are
moved, to the specific points raised therein. The discussion is
sufficiently pointed and may be focussed on specific points.
- Discussion on the Finance Bill provides a boundless opportunity to
discuss the entire administration.
(3) Question Hour: The first hour of every
parliamentary day is reserved for questions, which provide an effective form of
control. On an average some thirty questions are orally asked, and answered
daily. The privilege of asking questions keeps the entire administration on its
toes. A question is an effective device of focussing public attention, in a
striking manner, on different aspects of administration’s policies and
activities. A question is generally followed by supplementary questions, which
provided a sort of crossexamination of the Minister, and do often catch off his
(4) ‘Zero Hour’ Discussion: ‘Zero Hour’, India’s
innovation in the field of parliamentary practices, has emerged, since 1962, as
a powerful tool of control over the executive, though it is not a formally
prescribed device available to the Members of Parliament. It is in a way
extraregular and is so called because it is invoked in the House immediately
after the question hour but before the items on the order paper of the House
(that is, the agenda for the day) are taken up for discussion and disposal. As
the Parliament meets at 11.00 a.m. and the question hour is over at 12.00, the
latter is the ‘Zero Hour’. It is at this hour that the Members of Parliament can
raise, subject to the permission of the Presiding officer, matters which in
their eyes are of public importance -even if not listed in the day’s order
(5) Adjournment Debates: The device of adjournment
motion is a tool of day-to-day control, and may be utilized for raising a
discussion in the House on any specific question of urgent nature and of public
importance. If allowed by the presiding officer, an immediate debate takes place
on the matter raised, thus suspending the normal business of the House.
Adjournment debate is to be distinguished from the two hours’ debate which
may ensue on a matter of urgent public importance. The former is characterized
by voting after the debate is over: in the latter there is simply a discussion
and no voting.
(6) No-confidence Motion: Provision for
‘no-confidence’ motion also called censure motion, exists in the Constitution
itself. A censure motion provides an occasion when the entire policy of the
Government, or a part of it, comes under fire. An adverse vote on this occasion
leads to the resignation of the Government. This provision, however, remained
practically a dead letter until 1962. For the first time in Indian parliamentary
history, a ‘no-confidence’ motion was discussed and defeated in the Lok Sabha in
its monsoon session, 1963. And its frequency has increased in the post-Nehru
(7) Debates on Legislation: The various readings of a
bill provide opportunities to the Members of Parliament to criticize the entire
policy underlying the bill. The criticism may even make the Government change
its mind. The Government, for instance, withdrew the highly controversial Hindu
Code Bill in 1951. Again in 1968, the Government rescinded its earlier decision
to change the name of the Benaras Hindu University.
(8) Parliamentary Committees: Parliamentary
committees, Public Accounts Committee, Estimates Committee, Committee on Public
Undertakings, Committee on Subordinate Legislation and Committee on
Assurances—are also tools of controls over administration.
(9) Audit: Parliament exercises control over public
expenditure through the Comptroller and Auditor-General, who audits (and in
practice, maintained till 1976, when accounts were separated from audit) all
Government accounts to ensure that the money granted by Parliament has not been
exceeded without a supplementary vote, and that the money expended conforms to
rules. The accountability of Government to Parliament in the field of financial
administration is, thus, secured through the reports of the Comptroller and
Auditor- General, who has rightly been described as ‘the guide, philosopher and
friend’ of the Public Accounts Committee.